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Confronting the Challenges of Climate Literacy (Collaborative Research: McNeal)

This project is developing inquiry-based, lab-focused, online Climate Change EarthLabs modules as a context for ongoing research into how high school students grasp change over time in the Earth System on multiple time scales. This project examines the challenges to high-school students' understanding of Earth's complex systems, operating over various temporal and spatial scales, and by developing research-based insights into effective educational tools and approaches that support learning about climate change and Earth Systems Science.

Award Number: 
1443024
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/15/2010 to Sat, 10/31/2015
Full Description: 

This project is developing three inquiry-based, lab-focused, online Climate Change EarthLabs modules as a context for ongoing research into how high school students grasp change over time in the Earth System on multiple time scales. Climate literacy has emerged as an important domain of education. Yet it presents real challenges in cognition, perception, and pedagogy, especially in understanding Earth as a dynamic system operating at local to global spatial scales over multiple time scales. This research project confronts these issues by examining the challenges to high-school students' understanding of Earth's complex systems, operating over various temporal and spatial scales, and by developing research-based insights into effective educational tools and approaches that support learning about climate change and Earth Systems Science. The project is a collaborative effort among science educators at TERC, Mississippi State University, and The University of Texas at Austin.

The project uses a backward-design methodology to identify an integrated set of science learning goals and research questions to inform module development. Development and review of draft materials will be followed by a pilot implementation and then two rounds of teacher professional development, classroom implementation, and research in Texas and Mississippi. Research findings from the multiple rounds of implementation will allow an iterative process for refining the modules, the professional development materials, and the research program.

This project focuses on the design, development, and testing of innovative climate change curriculum materials and teacher professional development for Earth Systems science instruction. The materials will be tested in states with teachers in need of Earth Systems Science training and with significant numbers of low income and minority students who are likely to be hard hit by impending climate change. The research will shed light on the challenges of education for climate literacy.

Formerly Award # 1019703.

Efficacy Study of Metropolitan Denver's Urban Advantage Program: A Project to Improve Scientific Literacy Among Urban Middle School Students

This is an efficacy study to determine if partnerships among formal and informal organizations demonstrate an appropriate infrastructure for improving science literacy among urban middle school science students. The study aims to answer the following questions: How does participation in the program affect students' science knowledge, skills, and attitudes toward science; teachers' science knowledge, skills, and abilities; and families engagement in and support for their children's science learning and aspirations?

Award Number: 
1020386
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/15/2010 to Wed, 08/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Maggie Miller
Full Description: 

This is an efficacy study through which the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Denver Zoo, the Denver Botanic Gardens, and three of Denver's urban school districts join efforts to determine if partnerships among formal and informal organizations demonstrate an appropriate infrastructure for improving science literacy among urban middle school science students. The Metropolitan Denver Urban Advantage (UA Denver) program is used for this purpose. This program consists of three design elements: (a) student-driven investigations, (b) STEM-related content, and (c) alignment of schools and informal science education institutions; and six major components: (a) professional development for teachers, (b) classroom materials and resources, (c) access to science-rich organizations, (d) outreach to families, (e) capacity building and sustainability, and (e) program assessment and student learning. Three research questions guide the study: (1) How does the participation in the program affect students' science knowledge, skills, and attitudes toward science relative to comparison groups of students? (2) How does the participation in the program affect teachers' science knowledge, skills, and abilities relative to comparison groups of teachers? and (3) How do families' participation in the program affect their engagement in and support for their children's science learning and aspirations relative to comparison families?

The study's guiding hypothesis is that the UA Denver program should improve science literacy in urban middle school students measured by (a) students' increased understanding of science, as reflected in their science investigations or "exit projects"; (b) teachers' increased understanding of science and their ability to support students in their exit projects, as documented by classroom observations, observations of professional development activities, and surveys; and (c) school groups' and families' increased visits to participating science-based institutions, through surveys. The study employs an experimental research design. Schools are randomly assigned to either intervention or comparison groups and classrooms will be the units of analysis. Power analysis recommended a sample of 18 intervention and 18 comparison middle schools, with approximately 72 seventh grade science teachers, over 5,000 students, and 12,000 individual parents in order to detect differences among intervention and comparison groups. To answer the three research questions, data gathering strategies include: (a) students' standardized test scores from the Colorado Student Assessment Program, (b) students' pre-post science learning assessment using the Northwest Evaluation Association's Measures for Academic Progress (science), (c) students' pre-post science aspirations and goals using the Modified Attitude Toward Science Inventory, (d) teachers' fidelity of implementation using the Teaching Science as Inquiry instrument, and (e) classroom interactions using the Science Teacher Inquiry Rubric, and the Reformed Teaching Observation protocol. To interpret the main three levels of data (students, nested in teachers, nested within schools), hierarchical linear modeling (HLM), including HLM6 application, are utilized. An advisory board, including experts in research methodologies, science, informal science education, assessment, and measurement oversees the progress of the study and provides guidance to the research team. An external evaluator assesses both formative and summative aspects of the evaluation component of the scope of work.

The key outcome of the study is a research-informed and field-tested intervention implemented under specific conditions for enhancing middle school science learning and teaching, and supported by partnerships between formal and informal organizations.

Models of Professional Development for Mathematics Teachers

This project is conducting a comprehensive study of professional development models designed for mathematics teachers in grades K-12. The research team will identify key constructs and frameworks within professional development programs and identify types of professional development models. The goals of the project are to encourage researchers and professional developers to reconceptualize mathematics professional development, develop a shared language, and renew discussions on effective professional development for teachers of mathematics.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1019934
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/15/2010 to Tue, 07/31/2012
Full Description: 

The Models of Professional Development for Mathematics Teachers project is conducting a comprehensive study of professional development models designed for mathematics teachers in grades K-12. The research team will identify key constructs and frameworks within professional development programs and identify types of professional development models. The goals of the project are to encourage researchers and professional developers to reconceptualize mathematics professional development, develop a shared language, and renew discussions on effective professional development for teachers of mathematics. The project team includes faculty and students at North Carolina State University and a research scientist at American Institutes for Research. The project team is coding and analyzing descriptive data on mathematics professional development (MPD) gathered from studying mathematics teacher education research literature. They are also conducting interviews with authors of the studies they have identified. The project is investigating the general question: What are the various models used by mathematics teacher educators when designing and implementing mathematics professional development? Specifically, they are asking: 1. What are similarities and differences across goals, theoretical frameworks, contexts and structures that exist in the design of MPD offered to K-12 teachers? 2. How does the field name and define various characteristics of MPD? 3. How can the characteristics of the various MPD designs be grouped into meaningful models? What are the main elements that define these models? The researchers hope that their efforts to describe models of professional development will help educators to move away from professional development designed around a few salient features and move toward professional development models that contain a theoretical framework and coherent features that work together. They want professional developers and researchers to use a common language to study and assess professional development. Their analysis of existing professional development projects in mathematics teaching will offer the following outcomes: 1. An empirically established definition of characteristics and models of MPD, with explanations of the various elements that comprise these models. 2. A coding protocol for use in the classification of MPD models and the organization of current information about existing MPD. 3. A theoretical framework for organizing knowledge about MPD that can foster new ways to think about these models in the design of innovative MPD for teachers. 4. A set of research-related innovations such as new hypotheses for studying MPD, new approaches to testing the explanatory and predictive validity of various features of professional development, and new formats for describing the state of the art in MPD. 5. Concepts that can support a revision of what is meant by best practices or effective features of MPD. 6. An open-source, web-based, searchable database with descriptions of various MPD. This exploratory project will provide an opportunity for the mathematics education field to learn more about professional development and approaches to conducting research on professional development.

Evaluating the Developing Mathematical Ideas Professional Development Program: Researching its Impact on Teaching and Student Learning

This is a 3.5-year efficacy study of the Developing Mathematical Ideas (DMI) elementary math teacher professional development (PD) program. DMI is a well-known, commercially available PD program with substantial prior evidence showing its impact on elementary teachers' mathematical and pedagogical knowledge. However, no studies have yet linked DMI directly with changes in teachers' classroom practice, or with improved student outcomes in math. This study aims to remedy this gap.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1019769
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Bill Nave
Full Description: 

This is a 3.5-year efficacy study of the Developing Mathematical Ideas (DMI) elementary math teacher professional development (PD) program. DMI was developed by staff from Education Development Center (EDC), SummerMath for Teachers, and TERC, the STEM research and development institution responsible for this research. DMI is a well-known, commercially available PD program with substantial prior evidence showing its impact on elementary teachers' mathematical and pedagogical knowledge. However, no studies have yet linked DMI directly with changes in teachers' classroom practice, or with improved student outcomes in math. This study aims to remedy this gap.

The research questions for the study are:

1) Does participation in the Developing Mathematical Ideas (DMI) professional development program lead to increases in reform-oriented teaching?

2) Does participation in DMI lead to increases in students' mathematics learning and achievement, especially in their ability to explain their thinking and justify their answers?

3) What is the process by which a reform-oriented professional development program can influence teaching practice and, thus, student learning? Through what mechanisms does DMI have impact, and with what kinds of support do we see the desired changes on our outcome measures when the larger professional development context is examined?

The dependent variables for this study include a) teachers' pedagogical and mathematics knowledge for teaching; b) the nature of their classroom practice; and c) student learning/ achievement in mathematics.

The study uses experimental and quasi-experimental methods, working with about 195 elementary grades teachers and their students in Boston, Springfield, Leominster, Fitchburg, and other Massachusetts public schools. Volunteer teachers are randomly assigned either to PD with DMI in the first year of the efficacy study, or to a control group that will wait until the second year of the study to receive DMI PD. Both groups of teachers will be followed through two academic years. Analyses use OLS regression, hierarchical modeling, and structural equation modeling, as appropriate, to compare the two groups and to track changes over time. In this way, the project explores several aspects of a conceptual framework hypothesizing relationships among PD, teacher mathematical and pedagogical knowledge, classroom teaching practice, and student outcomes. There are multiple measures of each construct, including video-analysis of teacher practice, and a new video-based measure of teacher knowledge.

The study tests the impact of DMI in a range of districts (large urban, small urban, suburban) serving an ethnically and economically diverse mix of students. It provides much needed, rigorous evidence testing the efficacy of this reform-oriented professional development program. It also directly explores the commonplace theory that teachers' understanding of content and student thinking and their encouragement of rich mathematical discourse for student sense-making lead to improvement on measures of mathematics achievement. Findings from the study are disseminated to both research and practitioner communities. The project provides professional development in mathematics to about 195 teachers to improve their ability to teach important concepts. If the evidence for efficacy is positive, then even larger-scale use of this PD program is likely.

Effective Programs for Elementary Science: A Best-evidence Synthesis

This synthesis project is a systematic review of experimental research evaluating programs and practices in elementary science. The systematic review addresses all areas of science in the elementary grades. The review uses an adaptation of best-evidence synthesis previously applied to elementary and secondary mathematics and reading, and includes experimental and quasi-experimental research on the outcomes of alternative approaches to elementary science.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1019306
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Full Description: 

This synthesis project is a systematic review of experimental research evaluating programs and practices in elementary science. The systematic review addresses all areas of science in the elementary grades. Different versions of the synthesis are written for audiences of researchers, policy makers, principals, and teachers. The review uses an adaptation of best-evidence synthesis previously applied to elementary and secondary mathematics and reading, and includes experimental and quasi-experimental research on the outcomes of alternative approaches to elementary science. The review is a part of a series of reviews that are part of the Best Evidence Encyclopedia (BEE), an on-line resource that disseminates systematic reviews of research on achievement outcomes of programs at all subject areas and grade levels (see www.bestevidence.org), and is led by Robert Slavin of Johns Hopkins University.

The review is carried out by a US-UK partnership of science educators and experts on systematic reviews of research. An advisory group of scientists, science educators, and experts on research review oversees the design of the review, monitors review procedures, and comments on drafts. This review takes a broad approach to searching the literature in order to locate every study that meets inclusion requirements for valid research. It includes electronic searches of educational databases (JSTOR, ERIC, EBSCO, Psych INFO, Dissertation Abstracts) using different combinations of key words (for example, "elementary students" and "science achievement"), covering the years 1970-2010. Results are narrowed by subject area (for example, "educational software", "science achievement", "instructional strategies"). Web-based repositories and education publishers' websites are included. The review also discusses each study that meets the inclusion requirements for a valid research design.

A strength of this work is that it takes on the synthesis of what is known about best practice for elementary science education, relying only on studies that meet the criteria for inclusion as having credible research designs. This is a review that is sorely needed in the field of science education. The lengthy and detailed review will be available on the BEE network, along with educator-friendly summaries. The work is also vetted via publication in a top, peer-reviewed journal. The study will include a set of tables showing ratings of programs according to consistent criteria in terms of the strength of the evidence base for each, with brief descriptions of the methods and findings. This educators' summary, patterned on Consumer Reports, is intended primarily for superintendents, principals, and teachers who are making choices among programs for implementation with their children.

The Science of Atoms and Molecules: Enabling the New Secondary Science Curriculum

The Science of Atoms and Molecules is supplemental material, constituting about 10% of the course work and providing a progressive understanding of the centrality of atomic scale phenomena and their implications in each discipline. Upgrading the computational models developed in the Molecular Workbench, the materials allow students to experience the atomic world and build models that can be used to understand and predict macroscopic phenomena.
Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0628181
Funding Period: 
Sun, 10/01/2006 to Wed, 03/31/2010
Full Description: 

Many schools have revised the sequence of high school science courses to be taken in the order physics, chemistry and biology. The Science of Atoms and Molecules is supplemental material, constituting about 10% of the course work and providing a progressive understanding of the centrality of atomic scale phenomena and their implications in each discipline. Upgrading the computational models developed in the Molecular Workbench, the materials allow students to experience the atomic world and build models that can be used to understand and predict macroscopic phenomena. Focused on the concepts of molecular biology, the basic physics of atoms and molecules is developed so that it can be further developed in chemistry. Student understanding of these concepts is leveraged to address ideas in molecular biology. For each of the three disciplines, two topics of two class period duration are developed for each of four strands: motion and energy, atoms and molecules, charge, and light. Professional development teachers need to use the materials and integrate them effectively into their courses is also developed as are assessments.

The GENIQUEST (GENomics Inquiry through QUantitative Trait Loci Exploration with SAIL Technology): Bringing STEM Data to High School Classrooms

This project is developing and testing a website, software application, and supplemental instructional materials that use publicly accessible genomics data to foster scientific inquiry among high schools students. Outcomes for students and teachers include developing knowledge, skills, and understandings related to genetic inheritance; data investigation and analysis; the process of scientific inquiry; and collaboration.

Award Number: 
0733264
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/15/2007 to Wed, 03/31/2010
Project Evaluator: 
none
Full Description: 

This project has been completed, and the final report is available.  Also available is the complete curriculum through Concord Consortium (www.concord.org).

Problem-Based Learning Designed for Science and Mathematics Professional Development

This project aims to: (1) develop, implement and study the impact of a subject matter-focused, Problem-based Learning professional development model; and to (2) design ways of incorporating Problem-Based Learning (PBL) into key subject matter and teacher preparation courses taken by pre-service teachers, and study the impact on pre-service teachers' learning. This project is designed with and for teams of K-12 science and mathematics teachers from school districts of mid-Michigan.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0353406
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/01/2004 to Sat, 07/31/2010
Project Evaluator: 
SAMPI Western Michigan University

Discourse Analysis: A Catalyst for Reflective Inquiry in Mathematics Classrooms

This project is examining the nature of mathematical discourse in middle school mathematics classrooms; the ways in which middle school mathematics teachers’ beliefs impact the discourse when working to enact reform-oriented instruction; and how this information can be used to incorporate practitioner research using concepts and tools of discourse analysis to improve mathematics instruction. The educational goal is to design a long-term professional development program that will continue beyond funding with other cohorts of teachers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0829306
Funding Period: 
Thu, 05/01/2008 to Sat, 07/31/2010
Full Description: 

The objectives of this project are to examine: the nature of mathematical discourse in middle school mathematics classrooms; the ways in which middle school mathematics teacher's beliefs impact the discourse when working to enact reform-oriented instruction; and how this information can be used to incorporate practitioner research using
concepts and tools of discourse analysis to improve mathematics instruction. The significance of this work comes in understanding how classroom discourse can affect the learning environment and engage students in learning mathematics in the ways proposed by the Standards. The focus of those documents has been to promote conceptual understanding and sense making instead of the procedural emphasis that often takes precedence in more traditional
mathematics teaching. The Standards vision can only be achieved if some of the discourse patterns in current mathematics instruction are changed from a transmission model of communication to one that supports inquiry.

The project is conducting case studies of the discourse in middle school mathematics classrooms. These case studies highlight classroom discourse patterns -the form, function, and meaning. In addition, we capture the process of teachers engaging in practitioner research projects in which they choose an aspect of their discourse to change and
study the affects of that change on the classroom learning environment. The project also examines how the combination of tools and concepts from discourse analysis and practitioner research projects affect teacher beliefs. Having teachers choose their focus of inquiry helps them invest and own the research process and enables them to understand, change and test out new ideas. It also allows them to gather evidence that can potentially change their beliefs.

The educational goal of this project is to design a long-term professional development program that will continue beyond this funding with other cohorts of teachers. The research case studies and other data are used to write case studies for both undergraduate methods courses and to as part of a long-term professional development program. In addition, these cases are made available to other teacher educators. The university-researchers and teacher researchers are collaboratively developing the courses and workshops that comprise the professional
development program.

This work offers a different approach to professional development (i.e., practitioner research) and different theoretical perspectives (i.e., tools and concepts of discourse analysis) for improving mathematics teaching and learning. focuses on teachers who would like to examine their instructional practice (or "enacted beliefs") at a fine-grained level. The research and educational activities make use of current advances in the study of and development of mathematics teaching and teachers. In addition, these activities offer a new perspective to be brought to the mathematics classroom - that of discourse tools and concepts as a mechanism of inquiry.

As discussed above, the intellectual merits lie in its ability to: a) offer insight into changes in teacher beliefs and classroom practices, b) provide frameworks and methodologies for studying classroom discourse, and c) uncover ways of helping teachers focus more centrally on the role of mathematics in classroom discourse. The broader impacts include: a) graduate students and teacher researchers will do research in a collaborative environment, disseminate findings to broad audiences, and be involved in planning the professional development program and coursework; b) case studies will be written and made available to other mathematics teacher educators; c) a long-term professional development program will continue with other cohorts of mathematics teachers; and d) similar case studies and activities will be used in undergraduate methods courses.

 

Project Publications and Presentations:

Herbel-Eisenmann, B. & Schleppegrell, M. (2008). 'What question would I be asking myself in my head?' Helping all students reason mathematically. Mathematics for all: Instructional strategies for diverse classrooms, Grades 6-8.

Males, L., Otten, S, & Herbel-Eisenmann, B. (2010).Challenges of critical colleagueship: Examining and reflecting on study group interactions. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, v. 13 (6), 459-471.

Herbel-Eisenmann, B.; Wagner, D & Cortes, V (2010). Lexical bundle analysis in mathematics classroom discourse: The significance of stance. Educational Studies in Mathematics, v. 75 (1), 23-42.

Otten, S.; Herbel-Eisenmann, B. & Males, L.M. (2010). Proof in algebra: An example of reasoning beyond examples. Mathematics Teacher, v.103 (7), 514-518.

Knowledge Synthesis on STEM Teachers in Professional Learning Communities

This project is evaluating existing knowledge about STEM teachers in professional learning communities (PLCs), both prospective teachers and classroom teachers across grades K-12. It will comprehensively synthesize peer-reviewed research but will also examine additional types of knowledge that influence the field. The project methods adapt those of Knowledge Management and Dissemination project, funded by NSF MSP and seeks to further advance the scope and rigor of knowledge synthesis.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0822013
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2008 to Tue, 08/31/2010

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